Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Q&A with Kylie Brant, Part 6 - First lines, Emotion, Taboo Subjects, Description

Question:
Do you have any advice about creating a great first line?

Kylie's Answer:
In SRS the best first lines/paragraphs set up something intriguing about one of the characters or the suspense plot.

I think my favorite first lines from my books are:
It was an unlikely place for murder. (Falling Hard and Fast).
Gabe Connally had been alive and he'd been dead. It'd taken a few years, but he'd developed a preference for being alive. (Hard to Handle)
They were dead. Every one of them. (Hard to Tame)

The first and third obviously drop the reader right down into the suspense. That's important in suspense especially in a short length format. Get the reader immersed in the action as soon as possible. But it's also intriguing to start with something dynamic involving one or the other of the characters. A reader has to wonder, how could Gabe have been dead? What happened? And then the line segues into the scene of them in a shootout with a perp they're chasing.

All opening lines are not created equal :) Like I say, I have my own favorites. Go down your list and rate the lines you noted. Which ones worked best for you as a reader? Which immediately denoted action? Which immediately acquainted you with a character? Which led solidly into something integral to the story? Then look at the ones you rated highest and analyze why they worked. Try to transfer that to your own story. Is your opening scene character related or action related? Your opening line morphs to fit whichever one you chose.

I do similar things when I'm reading suspense. I'm always looking for new twists. So I'll ask myself after reading a particularly deft one, how did the author do that? Oh, she made me think one thing at the beginning by doing xxx...and then my false prediction carried through the story so I was surprised at the twist. How can I set the reader up for a false conclusion in my book?


Question:
Any tricks to ramping up the emotion in your love scenes?

Kylie's Answer:
Emotion is derived from the characters' internalization of the action. Without their mental reactions it's all very dry and clinical. You have to let the reader in on every aspect of what they are thinking and feeling as the scene progresses and I don't mean only physically. For instance, you've got an alpha hero who is perfectly content to take what she's offering, intending on moving on afterwards like he always does with women. But his emotions during the scene clue in the reader that he is much more entrenched in the relationship, albeit reluctantly, then he wants to be.

Example: Moonlight slanted through the shades, leaving her body striated by light and shadow. He smoothed his lips over her throat. The pulse at its base was rapid, and he felt a fierce stab of masculine satisfaction at the evidence of her response. He wanted to linger over every inch of her. Wanted to find all the places that made her shudder and moan. He wanted to stamp her indelibly with his possession until she could never again think of this act without thinking of him. The primitive urge had alarm bells ringing dimly in the back of his mind. He nipped a string of kisses across her collarbone, soothing the area with the tip of his tongue. Hints of permanence usually had him running. But running now, from this woman, was the last thing on his mind.

Rough, very rough, LOL but you get the idea. You intersperse the actions with the thoughts/reactions to what is taking place. Therein lies emotion. That's what immerses the reader more deeply in the characters.


Question:
Are there any subjects that are taboo in writing for SRS?

Kylie's Answer:
Not really. It's all in the execution. Oh they'll tell you stories about sports stars or musicians don't sell well, but I've had a musician. Just didn't make it a major part of the story. I've had heroines who are thieves, heroes who are criminals, heroines who have been raped, one who has PTSD (she was in a Bagdhad hotel when it was blown up and trapped inside with 70 corpses for three days). One heroine was a former assassin. The subject matter can range from tracking serial killers, to rapists, really, most of what's in the headlines works. I think pedophilia would be a difficult subject to broach in SRS, simply because of reader expectation but it would still work to have a character who had that in their backstory. If the couple were hunting a pedophile, few case details and no villain POV would probably be best.

The difference is it's 'softened' a great deal for SRS. Waking Nightmare has some pretty gritty details in it about the villain and the enactment of the crimes. Those would have been glossed over or deleted if it were an SRS. I wouldn't have changed Ryne or Abbie's backstory, though. The romance would be in the foreground for the SRS and the suspense much more in the background. In single title you don't have to worry about that.

With the shorter length in SRS you only have space to resolve the relationship and the suspense. So the thread of the character's backstory must only require resolution in so much as how it relates to the romance. That actually gives you your character arc, black moment and final scene. Whatever has been holding the character(s) back from accepting a chance at happiness, that element is what gets final resolution in the final scene between them. (and I don't want to tell you how many books it took for me to figure *that* one out!)


Question:
How much description is too much? An author loses me if she gets into too much detail about a house, a car, person etc (unless it's somehow crucial to the plot).

Kylie's Answer:
I get bored veeery easily. Two or three paragraphs of introspection might take me hours to write because I'm so danged bored I can't stand it :) So less is more. Descriptors add vividness to your writing. Description, on the other hand, if it goes on and on, slows pacing and decreases tension.

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